As told to: Patrick Clarke, Rhian Daly, El Hunt, Ben Jolley, Will Richards, Gary Ryan, Andrew Trendell
As we celebrate NME’s 70th anniversary this week, we’ve recounted our rollercoaster ride in 70 songs, remembered seven covers that shook the world and heard writers recall their most surreal chitchats with superstars. But there’s one bunch we’ve not heard from yet: the artists themselves. Here, then, we’ve gathered legends (actual Dave Grohl) and newcomers (such as Nia Archives, who was crowned Best Producer at last week’s BandLab NME Awards 2022) to tell us what NME means to them.
“The first time I really discovered NME was when I first came over with Nirvana in the early ‘90s. Before then I was too punk rock; I would never have paid attention to it. At that time it was NME, Sounds and Melody Maker. So there were fucking three British music magazines going at each other all the time. Everybody was trying to find The Next Big Thing.
“One week one of them would be saying, ‘Oh this band’s the next big thing!’ And then the other one would be like, ‘Nah, fuck them – they’re no good!’ And then the next big thing would headline Reading before they even had a fucking album out! Then they’d disappear. The turnaround for exciting new artists was really quick because NME was a weekly magazine. You had to find fucking something cool to write about each week.
“I remember when the Foo Fighters had their first NME cover in summer 1995. It was a big deal for us. At that time – speaking of bands not having been around enough to fucking headline Reading – we’d only been together for four or five months. Not long enough to be on the cover of any magazine! I remember taking the pictures. It was shot down by University of Washington in Seattle and I was wearing Puma trainers. Those were the days.”
“Later, NME was crazy enough to give me a Godlike Genius Award in 2012. That says a lot. I don’t know if I’d ever trust one word in that magazine ever again! I remember the night when I accepted the award at O2 Academy Brixton in London because we jumped up on stage and we played for a long time. I think we might have played the entire new record [‘Wasting Light’] – and then we played some more. I remember people were standing on tables. It was a fucking good time.
“It’s incredible that NME is turning 70. That would mean it started in 1952… I wonder what feuds the magazine was hosting then, which artists it was pitting against each other in the ‘50s. Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, maybe? It’s too easy nowadays. Anyway, congratulations to the NME! AF
“When I was 15 I placed an ad in the back of NME, looking for bandmates. I eventually got a very mediocre guitarist and a drummer and they lived in Hainault [very north-east London], which is really far, so it’s fucking crazy that I got [Best Live Act at the BandLab NME Awards 2022]! …Thank you NME!”
Ian Cook: “It’s an iconic brand – one of the most iconic brands in music. Everyone I know grew up reading it and discovered so many bands that way. So it’s good to see they’ve stood the test of time.”
Martin Doherty: “And survived all the other papers!”
Ian Cook: “That stands for something: you survived the apocalypse.”
Lauren Mayberry: “Growing up in [Glasgow], an area where people didn’t always come and do touring, you learned about bands from the NME. You would look up album and live reviews of things you couldn’t access. It’s always had a special place in our hearts as fans.” GR
Faris Badwan: “I remember NME putting our first cover [in 2006] up on a billboard right outside my house, which was kind of funny. At that time it felt as if things were moving so fast it was impossible to take in. It’s only when looking back that I realise not every band has that kind of experience!” EH
“NME means another side of music that I’ve always welcomed and been interested in, and I’ve always been grateful that there have been platforms like NME to showcase, which otherwise I might not naturally have bumped into. I’m grateful for that.”
“I first discovered the NME when I moved to London at the age of 20 – growing up in France, I had only read French music magazines up until that point. I soon realised all my favourite artists had been in it: David Bowie, PJ Harvey, Bjork, The White Stripes, Portishead… So when they wrote an article about me [with John & Jehn] for the first time, I quickly bought a copy at my local store in north London. I was ready to celebrate. Although I admit it made me feel a bit cheap and vain, I still secretly enjoyed it. As artists, we can spend a lifetime feeling undiscovered so even a small article sometimes can do the trick –especially when you begin.
I mentioned the article to a couple of friends and they suddenly seemed to understand me better. I had become a musician who journalists wrote about! “You’re on a journey,” one of them said. I was worried they would say something like that —as if I was still miles away from a final destination (I was! Truth is, there is no final destination), but the article had left a sense of hopeful melancholia in me: maybe one day I would arrive wherever that was before I died; I would feel that sense of home at last. If anything, this article was proof that crossing the channel and leaving everything behind hadn’t been a mistake after all – that maybe, at the least, I was somehow welcome.
When I started Savages, NME sent a journalist on an early tour to write about us and it ended up being one of the best interviews I had ever done. I was uncomfortable with journalists at the time, unsure whether or not they were going to treat us as equals to our male peers and talk about our music rather than our shoes. I must say I was surprised. Whoever was the journalist (I cannot remember his name), they published a well-researched, true-to-the-bone article on us. They even agreed to use our black-and-white photographs (which most papers declined at the time)!
“This was a sign that the NME was evolving with the times. We’ve come a long way now from the times when St. Vincent would be the only woman to appear on the cover for a whole year. Some magazines still do that, or worse. NME doesn’t. Long live!”
Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers
“[When Chilis were first on the cover in 1994], it was so exotic for us to be in England or to have people from England care about us. Someone with a British accent paying attention meant the world, you know? There were these two journalists – they worked with us on numerous occasions – and they liked us! They were really nice and supportive and helpful and it was so cool. It meant a lot. We thought: ‘Oh wow they’re into us – all the way over there!'” AF
“I wanna say a massive thanks to NME itself because, actually, when we didn’t having fucking record label and were coming through the grass-roots, you did proper put it behind me. So thank you very much – to the New Musical Express!” RD
“NME’s so iconic. When I looked at so many artists that I really love [growing up], they would be on the cover of NME, and that was almost a ballpark of ‘that’s what I want to do.’”
Dave Bayley: “We grew up with NME. I remember going to the shop every Wednesday, picking up the NME and finding out who the new artists were who I could argue with Joe [Seaward] from the band about. He’d always show off with new stuff, so the NME was my way of competing. We actually met at Reading Festival, in the NME tent, so it means so much to us. It’s part of the reason we’re here. Who let us go on the cover [in 2020]? It’s bonkers, but brilliant. I felt that way when we were eventually playing that stage at Reading – I’d seen so many of my favourite bands doing the same thing and now we’re doing it. How the heck did that happen? It’s so weird. How the fuck did that happen?” AT
Brian Molko: “It makes me laugh because in the ‘90s I used to go out a lot – I mean, a lot. So the NME voted me as the guy Most Likely to Show Up to the Opening of An Envelope, and recommended that I stay home and have a cup of tea every once in a while and potter around the house! They were probably right, you know? [Placebo and the NME], we’re both survivors – we soldier on.” AT
“I cannot believe it’s been 70 years! 7-0! Sorry – I’m so flabbergasted. I don’t even know if I can explain to you what NME means to me. I think I’ve been on the cover maybe twice, and I reckon it was one of those big, magic moments in my life where I was like ‘Oh my God – I’ve finally done something worthwhile, ‘cause I’m on the cover of the NME. I remember running to the paper shop in Manchester, in Prestwich, where we lived when I was in The Fall and grabbing the NME every single week and ripping through it. So, happy birthday!” GR
Robert Smith: “The NME has meant many things to me over the years that I’ve been doing this with The Cure. At the very start, it was NME, Sounds and Melody Maker. You kind of fell into one three camps. Even though Melody Maker adopted The Cure after a while and Sounds were the first to put us on the cover, it was NME with Paul Morley’s piece about [1980 album] ‘Seventeen Seconds’ that got me going, in a way. They sent him out to cover us playing a show in Norwich or something, and I suddenly appreciated what it was like to be writer as opposed to just being in a band that was written about.
“NME still has it, of course, but the quality of writing through the early ‘80s was really good and informed me a lot about people that I wouldn’t have otherwise been thinking about. It was an important part of our cultural life and you rely on it to be a voice for good. At times I think it has lost its way, but generally for 70 years it’s almost done as well as us!
“It does feel like I’m a bit of an imposter to still be part of things like [the BandLab NME Awards 2022]. Not that I don’t think we’re good, but when I look around at what other people are doing I’m just like, ‘Really?’ When I’m on stage playing I understand why I’m still doing it because I love it, but when I go home I’ll wake up tomorrow with a thick head and think, ‘What did I say?’” AT
“When I was a kid I used to buy NME magazine every week, so I’m honoured I was even thought about [for Best Producer, which she won at the BandLab NME Awards 2022]. I was obsessed with NME growing up, so it’s very full circle. [Being named in the NME 100 list of hot new artists] was a really wholesome moment, too. Childhood me would be screaming!” BJ
Grian Chatten: “I grew up with NME – it was always a huge part of my life. My ma used to buy me NME magazines if we were ever travelling – probably to shut me up, and it did. I think that’s probably a testament to the good writing…” GR
“We have so much love for NME! They were one of our first champions and their early support was the encouragement we needed when first starting out as a band. We used to collect the magazine when we were younger, dreaming of featuring on it one day! Being on the front cover last year was a huge bucket list moment for us, and getting nominated for two awards this year is something we’ll never forget!” AT
Joel Amey: “I read it every week growing up and it was a huge part of my formative years. [Former New Music Editor] Matt Wilkinson and all his stuff to help finding new bands – that was great. We were Number One in a list of new bands you needed in your life, and that meant a lot. We’ve been on the cover a few times, and that’s a thrill. It’s such a huge part of musical culture in Britain.” AT
Belle & Sebastian
Stuart Murdoch: “Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, there was always a big stack of NMEs in every newsagent. Way before I was in a band I used to run out at seven in the morning to pore through my NME. When the band started, there was an extra pressure talking to NME because they always demanded something extra from the groups.
“We weren’t always willing to go along with that. I was never nervous, and I’ll always answer any question anyone asks me, whether it’s my mother talking to me or a magazine, but I did used to get a little bit worked up. But then again, I never turned the NME down. There was a respect there. It’s the only one of the big three music papers that kept going, and through the website there’s a continuity.” PC
Yannis Philippakis: “I remember when we were first put in the mag, that was a big deal for us. There was a feeling in the band that we’d missed our opportunity at a certain point because there was this whole nu-rave thing going on and we were just after it. I remember that at one point we felt like we were a great band, but we didn’t really feel like we were getting the attention. And so when we first were put in the NME – I think it was to do with the  Transgressive Records roadshow with The Young Knives and Mystery Jets – it felt kind of unbelievable.
‘Shortly after that, we got our first cover for the Ones to Watch for the year. We didn’t really realise how big a deal it was at the time, but it quickly became apparent that it was a big, big deal because then we got all this hype. I was hungover in Birmingham and we stopped off at a petrol station and I remember just seeing us looking back at us from the cover. It was quite a special moment.
“The whole thing about NME and hype was interesting as a phenomenon, because a band could be put on the cover one week and then they could quickly almost become a household name, or become ubiquitous in the music culture. There was a bit of a precarious rollercoaster aspect to the way in which bands and the NME fed into each other and created a whirlwind of esteem. It was super-exciting.” WR
“My first memories of NME are the mixtape CDs – my family used to collect them and I discovered loads of my favourite artists through those CDs. They were kind of the soundscape to my childhood, almost. So I feel really lucky to have been at the NME Awards [to collect Best Mixtape for 2021’s ‘The Walls Are Way Too Thin’]!” GR
“To me, NME means discovering new music.” GR
“Wow – 70! I remember it just being around – Noel and [their brother] Paul obviously got into music before me ‘cause they were older than me. Noel was more looking at The Smiths and the Pistols and that kind of thing. Paul was more into The Jam and The Specials and all that. So it was always around, but my first encounter with it would probably have been around the Manchester era – all that stuff – because that’s when I got into music.”
“When I got into it, I was fucking obsessed. Before I joined a band or had any ideas of being in a band – and when I got into the Roses and that stuff – I was working and that’d always be the first thing you’d get when it came out on a Wednesday. You’d get it and you’d sit there; ‘No, they’re not in this week’ [mimes turning pages of mag], trying to look for your favourite band. I was obsessed with it.”
“It was alright [being written about in NME]. We used to get slagged off and that, but I didn’t mind that either because at least we were getting written about and you can’t please everyone. There’d be someone in that fucking office who gets it. I loved it – I loved being on the cover and all that shit, and being inside it. I loved being myself and expressing who you are and just winding people up. You look at other bands and you just go, ‘Fucking hell, you boring cunt – how the fuck have you got on the front of that magazine?’ I just didn’t want to be like that.”
“I remember one [Oasis cover] that stands out to me – I think it might have been the first one [in 1994]. It was in that bar where it says Oasis Bar; I remember that jacket that I wore. I think we’d come down to sign with Creation and I remember sitting there and I was going, ‘Are you gonna give us some fucking money then for some clothes?’ I don’t think we’d made any music, but we’d been gigging. And they went, ‘Well what do you fucking want?’ I’m there like, ‘I want leather – I want a leather fucking trench like George Harrison’.
“I remember frogmarching Johnny Hopkins from Creation [Records] to the shop – it was just a shit jacket, but I knew I’d pull it off. You know those shitty leather jacket shops on Oxford Street? They’re obviously good when you’re a kid, but they’re just shit. So I took him in there and I knew once I got it on me, it would go somewhere else. I always liked that shot.” RD